Eight Scots qualify in Amateur Championship in Kent

Robert MacIntyre, last year's beaten finalist, heaved a sigh of relief as he was among five Scots in the Walker Cup squad and eight in total to make the match-play phase in the Amateur Championship at Royal St George's.

Robert MacIntyre, last year's beaten finalist, scraped through on the qualifying mark in Kent. Picture: Getty Images
Robert MacIntyre, last year's beaten finalist, scraped through on the qualifying mark in Kent. Picture: Getty Images

The Glencruitten left-hander scraped through on the qualifying mark in Kent after making two crucial birdies in the final six holes of his second round at Prince’s and then surviving an agonising seven-hour wait.

Drumoig’s Connor Syme also made it with nothing to spare as the pair progressed along with fellow Great Britain & Ireland squad members Craig Howie (Peebles), Sandy Scott (Nairn) and Craig Ross (Kirkhill).

Howie, the leading qualifier at Carnoustie two years ago, produced another polished stroke-play performance with rounds of 68 and 69 for a five-under-par total, getting the job done quite comfortably.

As did Scott, with matching scores though the other way around, and 2016 South African Amateur champion Ross as he carded an eagle and 10 birdies over two days.

It was a solid rather than spectacular performance from Christopher Maclean as the Balmore player progressed as the leading Scot in joint-sixth on six-under after a pair of 68s.

“The guy that comes in 64th and the guy that comes in first has just as much of a chance of winning it as each other,” said the Stirling University student, who qualified as that top seed in the Spanish Amateur Championship earlier in the season.

“But it was nice walking up the last knowing I had six or seven shots to play with. It’s always good to be the highest-placed Scot. I played some good golf, but I was just trying to make the cut.”

Maclean has been in good form this season, finishing joint runner-up in the Irish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Royal County Down, where he came home in 31 in a second-round 67.

“I’m playing well and the greens are good,” added the 22-year-old from Clydebank. “One of the strongest parts of my game is my putting and I’ve been rolling it good.

“The field is really strong - it’s one of the best fields I will play in all year - but, if you’ve made the cut, you are good enough to beat anyone else.”

One of the rewards for the winner on Saturday is a place in next month’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

“That’s the dream,” admitted Maclean. “Everyone talks about The Masters but, for me, The Open is one I would love to play in as it is just the absolute test of golf.”

Helped by a second-round 66 at Royal St George’s, Barassie’s Euan Walker qualified alongside Ross on three-under, one less than Royal Wimbledon’s Ryan Lumsden after he signed two 70s.

Irishman Caolan Rafferty came in late in the day to lead a total of 77 qualifiers, breaking Icelander Gisli Sveinbergsson’s day-old course record at Prince’s with a blistering 62.

The 10-under-par effort was sparked by an eagle at the second, which he followed by adding nine birdies in 12 holes before dropping a shot at the last.

The score matched the lowest round in Amateur Championship qualifying history set by Kevin McAlpine on the Old Course at St Andrews in 2004.

Rafferty, 25, finished a shot clear of Italian Albert Castagnara (65-68), with England’s Harry Ellis a further stroke behind following rounds of 69 and 65.

Recent Links Trophy winner Matthew Jordan birdied two of the last six holes to join MacIntyre and Syme in progressing on one-under.

Jamie Stewart (72-70) missed out by a shot while others to suffer an early exit included Walker Cup squad member Barry Hume, Scottish Stroke-Play champion Liam Johnson and Craig Watson, the winner at Royal St George’s in 1997.